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Google Networking The Internet Technology

Databases In Caves? A Unique Google Fiber Bid 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the sysadmins-plus-bats-equals-fun dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Plenty of cities have submitted bids for the Google Fiber project, with most of their bids being centered around the attributes that could describe many communities. Yet one small midwestern town, with much less fanfare than the metropolitan bids, provided an unusual proposition for Google in their likely quixotic nomination. Quincy, IL, has an extensive series of underground caverns that could provide year-round temperature control, dedicated hydroelectric power, and security in the case of a terrorist attack."
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Databases In Caves? A Unique Google Fiber Bid

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  • Makes sense (Score:5, Funny)

    by sys.stdout.write (1551563) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:01PM (#31875368)
    Sys admins pretty much live in caves already, right?
  • by Nimey (114278) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:03PM (#31875400) Homepage Journal

    Big former limestone quarry with a bunch of underground storage. Town has its own electric utility too.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:07PM (#31875458) Homepage Journal
    We may not have extensive, cool underground caves, but we do have a nearly unlimited resource of young college-aged girls in warm sunny California weather right on the beach with an advanced technical university that can turn out underpaid interns by the droves. So suck it Quincy. =P
    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:27PM (#31875768)
      Your newsletter, I WANTS!
    • You forgot to mention SLO's numerous bars and awesome food! Wine country nearby, hiking and beaches, halfway between LA and SF...
      • by no1home (1271260)

        Damn! I KNEW I should've gone to SLO-Poly instead of Pomona!

  • Fantasic Idea! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Kagato (116051) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:08PM (#31875480)

    I don't know if they will be google fiber finalist, but they make a very compelling argument for being a data center. Kudos for using the competition as a backdoor into media spotlight.

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Proponents of underground houses cite the thermal properties of their structures as a benefit. NOT because it provides infinite cooling, but because the earth acts as a capacitor. The cave will be packed from floor to ceiling with servers, and the heat will go into the surrounding earth and stay there. After two months the limestone surrounding the data center will approach the heat capacity - they'll have to shutdown, and the surrounding rock will be radiating heat for a month.
      • Considering they have rooms the size of whole warehouses cooled to as low as 28 F for frozen meat handling to which semis pull up to underground, I doubt the underground operators in Quincy have much problem with managing heat.

  • ..and my down may not have extensive, cool, secure areas for servers, but we need it as badly as anyone I've ever heard of. I'm paying $110 a month for 1mbps SDSL.
  • no, caves suck (Score:4, Interesting)

    1. they are hard to get to

    2. they are hard to get supplies to and build in

    3. they flood

    4. they have air quality issues

    5. and they ARE cool... until you put a bunch of servers in them, and then they heat up, and STAY hot, and are harder to cool than on the surface

    the idea of servers in caves sucks

    • Re:no, caves suck (Score:5, Interesting)

      by FooAtWFU (699187) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:12PM (#31875550) Homepage
      I was reading somewhere about the London Underground - how, when it opened, it was really nice and cool in the tunnels and everyone enjoyed a break from the summer heat... but a century of operations has heated the very bedrock, and now it's sweltering down there, and they're trying to figure out ways to effectively do air-conditioning in stations and on trains ... which can be tricky, since some of the tubes are so tight that there's not really anywhere for the waste heat to go. (They were talking about having the trains make blocks of ice while in other segments, and letting those melt while they're in the narrow under-the-river tubes).
      • Sounds like a major geothermal heat pump project in the making, cooling the bedroom with the surrounding ocean/river water.
      • by OzRoy (602691)

        That is really interesting.

        I think it would be a different situation here though. In London the City itself is probably acting as insulation preventing the heat from the tunnels escaping; no one likes being cold, so all the building have heating.

        In this situation the mountain would lose heat to the surrounding atmosphere much more readily.

    • 1. they are hard to get to: no, they drive trucks into those types of caves, if I am not mistaken (or have HUGE elevators)

      2. they are hard to get supplies to and build in: Not with a roadway, and you don't have to build "buildings" as such.

      3. they flood: If they did, Quincy wouldn't put up the choice to Google.

      4. they have air quality issues: Dust control is needed on the surface for data centers, too, if you haven't noticed.

      5. and they ARE cool... until you put a bunch of servers in them: Heat exchang

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mr_mischief (456295)

        Here are some specifics on the Underground Warehouses facilities in Quincy, IL:

        1. It has its own traffic light

        2. semi trucks haul loads in and out of the existing warehouse

        3. not in 1993, 1997, or 2008 did the underground warehouses flood, although Illinois Route 57 was closed getting to them from one direction requiring a detour.

        4. Many of the employees park their cars inside the caverns, trucks run in and out, materials are still mined in parts of the complex, and the break room where employees eat is bui

    • by qoncept (599709)

      5. and they ARE cool... until you put a bunch of servers in them, and then they heat up, and STAY hot, and are harder to cool than on the surface

      How do you figure? Unless you're talking about the logistical complications (your point #2), I don't see any reason.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Swervin (836962)

      1. they are hard to get to

      2. they are hard to get supplies to and build in

      3. they flood

      4. they have air quality issues

      5. and they ARE cool... until you put a bunch of servers in them, and then they heat up, and STAY hot, and are harder to cool than on the surface

      the idea of servers in caves sucks

      1. Having seen these caves first hand, I know for a fact that a good many of them can be driven into directly, doesn't get much easier to get to than that.

      2. (See 1)

      3. Haven't seen or heard of much flooding in these.

      4. The ones I've driven past have massive ventilation fans outside, and can handle removing vehicle exhaust. What are you doing to the air quality in there that's worse than exhaust? Burrito day?

      5. Not sure on 5, but they do manage to store refrigerated goods in them, as another poster points o

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      1) Believe it or not, roads are allowed to lead to caves.

      2) Believe it or not, roads are allowed to lead INTO caves.

      3) Really? Every cave in the world floods?

      4) What air quality issues?

      5) Anything more then conjecture?

      This list sounds like the typical I'm-13-years-old-and-know-how-to-use-a-computer-so-I-think-I-know-everything bullshit that normally fills /.

    • by Tmack (593755)

      1. they are hard to get to

      2. they are hard to get supplies to and build in

      3. they flood

      4. they have air quality issues

      5. and they ARE cool... until you put a bunch of servers in them, and then they heat up, and STAY hot, and are harder to cool than on the surface

      the idea of servers in caves sucks

      4 is questionable, most caves have good air flow (depends on your local though). Thermal and pressure differences between entrances create it (thermometric or barometric flows)

      Other reasons not to put this type of things in caves:

      * Caves are protected environments in most states
      * Caves are commonly roosts for bats, which are having a hard enough time with WNS [caves.org] right now, let alone people intent on killing them
      * Caves typically do not follow city planning, they go where they want to, following seams and

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lena_10326 (1100441)

        Obviously these are man made caves. Not naturally formed ones carved by water. Man made caves tend to follow grid patterns because they are planned with the thought in mind to rent the space out. They will leave massive walls and pillars spaced out every 50 feet or so.

        Also, caves with heavy usage are not going to be friendly to bats, which don't like being disturbed by 18 wheelers driving past every 20 minutes.

        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          by Tmack (593755)

          Obviously these are man made caves. Not naturally formed ones carved by water.

          Then it should be called such, rather than just cave [wikipedia.org], as I stated. The word Cave by itself is defined as a NATURAL space formed by natural processes.

          Pedantic, yes, but if you told a bunch of geologists you are going to run a datacenter in a cave you would get a bunch of strange looks from them if you didnt say "man made" first.

          -Tm
          nss#45759

          • The word Cave by itself is defined as a NATURAL space formed by natural processes.

            I can assure that there is nothing natural about CmdrTaco's bedroom.

          • In this case, they are mines. Gypsum and other minerals are taken out to be processed into products, and the chambers left behind are warehouses, offices, docks, and employee parking lots (yes, underground).

    • Re:no, caves suck (Score:4, Informative)

      by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7@NosPaM.cornell.edu> on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:27PM (#31875778) Homepage

      Hmm... Then why are companies like Iron Mountain building out LARGE datacenters in caves?

      (In most cases, former mines/quarries.)

      1) Not caves large enough to drive vehicles in - many mines meet this criteria
      2) Same answer as 1 for supplies, for 2 - in many cases they were already "built" for previous purposes (usually, getting valuable materials out of the ground)
      3) Not if they're above the water table - many are. Iron Mountain's is, and apparently they're planning on using a nearby underground lake for cooling soon.
      4) Not if built/designed correctly.
      5) Iron Mountain and the like would prefer to disagree with you on that.

      • by toastar (573882)

        Hmm... Then why are companies like Iron Mountain building out LARGE datacenters in caves?

        (In most cases, former mines/quarries.)

        1) Not caves large enough to drive vehicles in - many mines meet this criteria
        2) Same answer as 1 for supplies, for 2 - in many cases they were already "built" for previous purposes (usually, getting valuable materials out of the ground)
        3) Not if they're above the water table - many are. Iron Mountain's is, and apparently they're planning on using a nearby underground lake for cooling soon.
        4) Not if built/designed correctly.
        5) Iron Mountain and the like would prefer to disagree with you on that.

        LAWL! I had to do the recovery on several tapes that were stored with iron mountain after katrina.

      • by Tmack (593755)

        Hmm... Then why are companies like Iron Mountain building out LARGE datacenters in caves?

        (In most cases, former mines/quarries.)

        1) Not caves large enough to drive vehicles in - many mines meet this criteria

        Those are mines or tunnels, not caves [wikipedia.org]. If they insist on calling it a cave, they should specify "man made" cave or risk getting the NSS, ACC, USGS, USFWS and a few other organizations on their ass

        ... 3) Not if they're above the water table - many are. Iron Mountain's is, and apparently they're planning on using a nearby underground lake for cooling soon.

        Natural caves are typically formed by running water, they are nature's storm drains. You dont have to be below a water table for rainwater to fill a cave, mine or other hole in the ground. Water follows gravity, which typically goes down, and since holes in the ground generally go down to stay underground, water

      • by Brianwa (692565)

        I once knew a guy who worked for a real estate company that sold similar caves. IIRC they were also mines that were no longer being used. A common use for these caves is to store cheese while it ages -- they're the perfect temperature and cheese companies can save lots of money in electricity costs.

        I didn't believe him at first when he told me with a straight face that he used to evaluate and sell cheese caves.

        • These are active mines, but the active parts are so far away from the warehouse rooms that the employees in the warehouses don't hear the mining. I was a temp in the warehouse portion of the very facility back in 1995 or so. Our section required hardhats because we had block walls but used the old mine chamber's ceiling as-is. The lunch rooms, offices, and parts of the warehouse were of course not hard-hat areas because there were structures built accordingly inside the chambers.

    • 3. they flood

      Depends on the cave. Of course, if you're going to build a dam a scant three miles away and vastly raise the water table, well, it's probably going to be a concern with this cave.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Swervin (836962)

        3. they flood

        Depends on the cave. Of course, if you're going to build a dam a scant three miles away and vastly raise the water table, well, it's probably going to be a concern with this cave.

        Dam is already there, they're just adding a hydro electric plant to it. Lock and Dam 21 [wikipedia.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ErikLalande (1791774)
        These caves don't flood. Monster food companies use them to store food in, and they are a mile from the river.
        • by pspahn (1175617)
          There are companies feeding monsters now? What happened to monstrous self-reliance?

          This country is so entitled.
    • by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:53PM (#31876142) Journal
      You must be missing something. The bad guys in spy movies often put their secret bases in caves, complete with big computers with lots of unnecessary buttons and screens. Super villains know what they are doing, so I'm sure caves are an excellent choice.
      • all supervillain cave headquarters have a rocket launchpad room

        all evil supervillains in b grade hollywood movies want to launch rockets at somebody from hidden rocket launch sites. whether syndrome in the incredibles, blofeld in you only live twice, rogue russians in vin diesel's xxx, whomever

        to cool down their ridiculously huge server complex then is a simple matter of opening the dome over the launch pad

        duh!

      • Besides, anybody with half an eye on the future would know that geostationary Data Centres would have no cooling problems and no power problems. O.K. There would be some transit time issues but these could be worked around by classifying data and it's likely access requirements. Come on guys. We don't need this crud here. Put it into space where we can easily nudge it into the sun for clean decommissioning.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      5. and they ARE cool... until you put a bunch of servers in them, and then they heat up, and STAY hot, and are harder to cool than on the surface

      Indeed. The term is "thermal mass". It was being trumpeted for a good long time as "green" since it helps to average-out the temperatures in homes, offices, etc. Problem is, with extended hot or cold weather, you need active heating/cooling, and a huge amount at that, because of all the thermal mass you now need to heat/cool.

      This was solved a long time ago, howe

    • No, none of these are relevant. i grew up in Quincy and the "caves' are old limestone quarries. They have a network of roads like an underground city and are in fact used for storage by many regional food and bevarage companies because of the climate as well as long erm document storage because of the safety factor. Herr is more info. http://www.uwi.org/default.htm [uwi.org]
    • You don't quite understand. These are not little natural caves carved by streams. They are underground warehouses with huge ventilation already in place, underground parking for employees, and whole rooms the size of a CVS or Walgreens temperature controlled for dry storage warehouses or frozen goods storage and handling. They know how to ventilate the place just fine, or their employees would be dead from car and semi exhaust.

  • This is a great idea provided the area is geologically stable and there is little risk of flooding.

    Dispersing data centers over wide geographical areas is also advisable.

  • Because when I think Quincy IL, I think TERRORIST ATTACK.
    • by Al Dimond (792444)

      Some other little town in rural Illinois nearly took down a big statue of Abraham Lincoln (probably in the early 'aughties) because they thought it was a terrorist risk. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ErikLalande (1791774)
      Thats not the point. The point is that Quincy's underground data center would be a backup for Chicago, KC, or St Louis's if they ever got hit with a dirty bomb. The fact that its a cave just means that Google wouldn't have to invest millions of dollars to create a hardened data center, because it does that naturally.
      • If any of those get hit hard enough with a dirty bomb to knock out their data centers, the last thing anyone is going to care about is their data being online.
        • by Anpheus (908711)

          I will. My emails are important, I make sure each of them has the red exclamation mark and flag.

    • by Rogerborg (306625)
      Terrorists, OK, but what are their plans for the Deep Crows [penny-arcade.com]?
  • I wonder if some of the northern cities/towns in Canada which has the infrastructure/connectivity may give them edge on cooling cost? There are technologies out there that can utilize external temperature.
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Actually almost anyplace with a dam would probably be a good spot for a data center. Frankly putting them in the day it's self may be brilliant.
      1. Lots of reliable power and no transmission loss.
      2. Easy cooling. Tap the cold water going into the turbine for cooling and release it down stream.
      3. Security. The dam probably is already a high security area so no extra would be needed.

    • by nemasu (1766860)
      The northernmost city in North America with a metro population of over one million is Edmonton. June through August has an average temperature of about 22 Celsius (72 F), unless they wanted to go more north (there's not much up there), they're still going to need to have cooling in place for a few months at least. Granted, in the winter, all they would need to do is suck air from the outside.
      • by Nulifier (1227312)

        I live in Edmonton, not only would you be able to pull the cold air in from the outside in the winter, you would probably have to heat it too (it got below -40c this year).

  • How quake proof are those caves? Because that is the most visible concern about anything this year in particular (even if is within average, it got a lot of visibility)..
  • A caveAdmin could do it!

  • Quicy, IL? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <theaetetus DOT slashdot AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:26PM (#31875748) Homepage Journal
    Actually, it's not a bad idea... Quincy, IL has three decent colleges nearby and a huge local technical population: two of the largest radio, television, and satellite transmitter manufacturers, Harris and Broadcast Electronics, are based in Quincy.
  • This would probably work out well if it wasn't for the hordes of man eating rats and re-animated skeletons that inhabit these caves.

    But I guess it would be pretty good security as long as the terrorists didn't happen to bring +1 war hammers and town portal scrolls along...

  • by lena_10326 (1100441) on Friday April 16, 2010 @03:29PM (#31875816) Homepage
    I've worked in the Kansas City caves and sat behind a desk on a computer for a while. It's fascinating for the first day but that ends quickly. The lack of sunlight and outdoor exposure really gets to drain on you week after week. Imagine getting up and going outside for some fresh air but when you go outside it's very dark, humid, claustrophobic, and the air is stale. It drives you nuts. Especially when you hear creaks and cracks all day in the dead of silence. I would not want to be an IT admin working in a cave.
    • by topcoder (1662257)

      Imagine getting up and going outside for some fresh air but when you go outside it's very dark, humid, claustrophobic, and the air is stale.

      Can you get me a job there?

    • by tsstahl (812393)

      Spelunking around the office is cool until you have to go to the bathroom real bad--take everything you bring...

    • by lymond01 (314120)

      Gosh, it's Google. You don't think they'd have swimming pools, ping pong tables, oxygen bars...

    • by cynyr (703126)
      so put the racks in the cave and the office outside at the entrance. best of both worlds.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by eshbums (1557147)

      I've worked in the Kansas City caves and sat behind a desk on a computer for a while. It's fascinating for the first day but that ends quickly. The lack of sunlight and outdoor exposure really gets to drain on you week after week. Imagine getting up and going outside for some fresh air but when you go outside it's very dark, humid, claustrophobic, and the air is stale. It drives you nuts. Especially when you hear creaks and cracks all day in the dead of silence. I would not want to be an IT admin working in a cave.

      Did you type 4 8 15 16 23 42 over and over again during the course of your day?

    • "I've worked in the Kansas City caves and sat behind a desk on a computer for a while. It's fascinating for the first day but that ends quickly. The lack of sunlight and outdoor exposure really gets to drain on you week after week. Imagine getting up and going outside for some fresh air but when you go outside it's very dark, humid, claustrophobic, and the air is stale. It drives you nuts. Especially when you hear creaks and cracks all day in the dead of silence. I would not want to be an IT admin working i

  • Dear Captain-Commander,

    It was bad enough that they were breaking the balance between the soul re-incarnation cycle, but now they are wanting to build a datacenter in their secret underground cave. How is the Research and Development division supposed to keep up with that? It isn't like there is unlimited space to place to place a giant data center in the middle of the Seireitei. I should have killed that little punk Ishida when I had the chance. I guess now I am going to have to build the thing Heuco

  • What a dark, unpleasant place. Getting into the caves isn't so hard, because Quincy is situated on high bluffs overlooking the Mississippi. So access is probably pretty much straight in from the highway or something like it. Keeping the Mississippi out the next time it floods in a major way may be a bigger problem. Being in Quincy though... that's the biggest problem. The darkest two years of my life were my time there, trying to find something to do, trying to stay warm in my cavernous old house. Qu
    • Quincy didn't flood more than two blocks east of the river in 1993, 1997, or 2008. The Underground Warehouses facilities were open through all of those, although portions of IL 57 were closed demanding detours.

      St. Louis really is a nice town if you give it a chance. What are you, a Cubs fan? ;-)

      • Much like living in Quincy, rooting for the Cubs seemed like a good idea at one time. Frankly though I couldn't figure out how to give STL or Quincy a chance after trying, and didn't see much point giving Springfield or Peoria a chance, and the Quad Cities seemed not so much like a destination as a place I should have moved if I wanted to make the project less of a disaster.
  • Google Fiber is about connecting homes and businesses to the Internet.

    Not databases.

    • These warehouses are run by, you guessed it, a business. The space could be used as a colocation facility if Google themselves didn't want to use it. However, Quincy currently is a terrible place to run a data center because of... lack of bandwidth. If bandwidth was fixed for residences and businesses, these old portions of the mines would make wonderful data centers for existing and new businesses.

  • They are good at hiding stuff like bin laden

  • by ravenscar (1662985)

    This sounds like Plato's version of a server farm.

  • As opposed to those sorts of caverns that are above-ground?

  • Tony Stark built a database in a CAVE! [youtube.com] With a BOX OF SCRAPS! [youtube.com]

  • Tony Stark built a database in a CAVE! [youtube.com] With a BOX OF SCRAPS! [youtube.com]

  • provide year-round temperature control, dedicated hydroelectric power, and security in the case of a terrorist attack."

  • Just outside a town within commuting distance of Quincy, IL, a Hannibal, MO area hog farm has been harnessed as a possible source of crude oil replacement [theregister.co.uk].

    They're testing processed hog excrement as a heavy crude replacement for asphalt. The actual test is in Eureka, MO, a St. Louis-area community home to Six Flags St. Louis.

  • Well, not "caves" per se, but we do have the Springfield Underground [springfiel...ground.com], an extensive system of underground limestone quarries, the mined-out parts of which have been converted into office, data hosting, warehousing, and manufacturing space. (Here's a video tour [youtube.com].)

    I've been in it. It's pretty impressive.

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